Winter Break 2024

This transformative Spanish 204 program intertwines language learning with hands-on engagement with social justice issues. Given Mexico’s influential position in global conversations on migration, human rights and related topics, students have unique opportunities to critically explore these concerns through experiential learning and collaborations with activists and indigenous community leaders.

Message from Faculty Director

Fernando Contreras

I am thrilled to introduce our Social Justice and Cultural Immersion program in Mexico, a dynamic and transformative experience. My passion for this program stems from a deep-rooted desire to blend education with empathy, cultural diversity, and global impact. With an extensive background in guiding groups of international students in Mexico, I’m excited to lead this journey for Spanish 204 students.

Our program is tailored to individuals seeking not just an educational voyage but a transformative experience. We’ve crafted an itinerary that delves into immersive, hands-on experiences, breaking boundaries to equip Carleton students with the skills essential for positive global change. This initiative seamlessly intertwines language acquisition with deep explorations of social justice issues. Through real-world dialogues and meaningful community engagements, students gain a profound understanding of the cultural, historical, and sociopolitical fabric of Mexico.

Every day in Mexico promises to be an adventure, from meeting Otomí indigenous community leaders to engaging in dialogues with Central American migrants at Casa Tochán. Our students experience a unique blend of classroom learning and civic engagement that dives deep into Mexico’s vibrant culture and history.

Our carefully arranged homestays with local families in Cuernavaca and Amatlán de Quetzalcóatl offer a genuine opportunity to embrace and understand the local ways of life. Living within these communities fosters an unparalleled chance for cultural immersion and connection.

Personally, I’m most excited about witnessing the personal growth and ‘a-ha’ moments our students will experience. It’s a privilege to see minds opening, perspectives changing, and cultural bridges being built.

This program is designed for those who are eager to explore, learn, and make a meaningful impact in a global context. For more information about my background and interests, feel free to explore my official bio.

I can’t wait to share my country with you and embark on this incredible journey together!

Professor Fernando Contreras Flamand, Lecturer in Spanish.


Learning Goals

  • Enhance Spanish language skills to an intermediate-high level focusing on fluency, accuracy, and complexity in speaking, reading, listening and writing.
  • Deepen cultural awareness by exploring historical, political, and social aspects of Mexico.
  • Gain insights into cultural nuances, traditions and contemporary issues through immersive experiences, engaging with local communities and Central American migrants.
  • Explore issues such as social justice, immigration and sustainability at the intersections of race, gender and ethnicity through guided discussions with Mexican experts.   
  • Reflect critically on the relationship between Mexico and the United States.
  • Challenge and widen one’s own assumptions and cultural and personal values through exposure to new worldviews and ways of life.


Applicants should have sophomore, junior or senior status in the 2024-25 academic year and be eligible to enroll in SPAN 204 in Fall 2024. Students with a strong interest in taking Spanish courses beyond the language requirement and/or pursuing a major or minor in Spanish are especially encouraged to apply.

Course of Study


Accepted students will enroll in a special section of SPAN 204 in the Fall before departure, as well as SPAN 203 during the first five weeks of Winter term, for a total of 12 credits. All 12 credits count toward the major or minor in Spanish.

SPAN 204+ Intermediate Spanish (Fall 2024) (6 credits)

Through discussion of literary and cultural texts and films, as well as a review of grammar, this course aims to help students acquire greater skill and confidence in both oral and written expression. This special section provides an introduction to concepts and perspectives relevant to the OCS program Social Justice and Cultural Immersion in Mexico. It specifically focuses on social justice, immigration, and sustainability, exploring the intersections of race, gender, and ethnicity within Mexico’s historical, political, and social contexts. Taught three days a week in Spanish. Prerequisite: Spanish 103 or equivalent and acceptance into the OCS program Social Justice and Cultural Immersion in Mexico.
Instructor: Fernando Contreras

SPAN 203: Social Justice and Cultural Immersion in Mexico (Winter 2025) (6 credits)

Embark on a transformative linguistic and cultural journey with our Mexico OCS program. Students will elevate their Spanish proficiency through instruction and immersion while exploring contemporary social justice issues in Mexico. They will engage in conversations with local community leaders while deepening their understanding of Mexico’s sociocultural landscape. After returning to campus, students will engage in critical analysis through oral and written reflections, presenting their findings in a culminating poster presentation. This unique blend of language acquisition and community engagement fosters a grounded understanding of global issues, preparing students to navigate a multicultural world with linguistic proficiency and cultural sensitivity.
Instructor: Fernando Contreras

Program Features


Students will stay in hostels in Mexico City (about 5 days). During the rest of the 3-week program, students will stay with families in Cuernavaca and in the indigenous community of Amatlán de Quetzalcóatl. 

Field Experiences

During the Spanish 204+ immersion program in Mexico, students embark on an enriching journey with culturally immersive excursions. They explore the ancient temples of Teotihuacan, understanding pre-Columbian history and spiritual beliefs. Students will visit historic landmarks in Mexico City including the Zócalo, the Basílica de Guadalupe, the Centro Histórico, the Folkloric Ballet of Amalia Hernández at the Fine Art Palace, Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul, the National Museum of Anthropology, and Xochimilco, among others. They will also engage in an intimate dialogue with Central and South American migrants at Casa Tochán and with members of the Otomí indigenous community at Orgullo Otomí. Through these experiences, students will learn about international and local migration, displacement and community organizing.

The program extends to Cuernavaca, renowned as the “City of the Eternal Spring.” Here, students will live with Mexican families, learn about daily life customs and traditions, and participate in educational sessions to talk about feminism and LGBTQ+ rights, migration, liberation theology, environmental justice activism, and race in Mexico.

In Amatlán de Quetzalcóatl, students will meet with indigenous community and spiritual leaders and stay with families for two nights at this Nahua indigenous village 50 minutes outside of Cuernavaca.

The Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City stands atop the remnants of the Aztec sacred precinct.
Diego Rivera's "Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central."
Teotihuacán stands as a UNESCO World Heritage site 40 kilometers northeast of Mexico City.
Tortillas adapt beautifully to diverse ingredients, flavors, and textures to create beloved dishes.
A symbol of the collective stand against further female fatalities due to gender-based violence.
A mural painted by migrants adorns the walls of Casa Tochán.
The "No tenemos WIFI, hablen entre ustedes" campaign encourages face-to-face interactions in public spaces.
The Elena Garro Cultural Centre in Mexico City stands as a tribute to the renowned Mexican writer, Elena Garro.
Casa Augsburg is where Carleton students have language lessons, cooking classes, and cultural talks.
Amatlán de Quetzalcóatl, Morelos, "Amatlán," refers to a specific tree indigenous to the area.
The National Museum of Popular Cultures in Mexico City.
Fostering an understanding of migration as a natural part of human existence.